[ETA: Please read the most recent post]
Rating sites are one of those things. You know, the things authors are told by their agents and editors to not look at, because like looking into the TARDIS, it will burn up your soul.
But the fact is, authors look. Maybe not all the time, but now and then, in those moments of weakness, or at the peak of their ego when they think, hey, I’m sure it will be all right (never, ever, ever look, especially while editing).
And part of me likes those sites, like Goodreads because YAY PEOPLE READING BOOKS.
But Goodreads has a flaw. A soul-killing one. It lets people rate books that are not available yet. And by “not available” I don’t mean “not on shelves.” I mean NOT AVAILABLE IN ANY FORM, MY AGENT/EDITOR HAVE NOT EVEN SEEN THIS IT IS IN PIECES ON MY FLOOR.
So when I look at the book in pieces on my floor, and then see that I’ve just received a two-star rating for that same book, I get an eye twitch. Which, not surprisingly, makes it a little harder to edit said book.
The awesome girls over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing have put together a letter, an easy copy-and-paste letter you can send to Goodreads, asking them to add a feature to their book entry form that specifies when a book becomes eligible for ratings/reviews (meaning, when ARCs at least become available). It’s a simple fix that would add a good deal of sanity to a population in great need of it.
If you want to send the letter below, you simply click copy, and paste it in HERE.
Dear Goodreads Staff,
It has come to my attention that once an author creates a Goodreads page and adds their “in the pipeline” book, there is no way to keep people from rating/reviewing the book before copies are actually available for reading. This seems to be a hole in the system, and I wondered if it might be possible to add a date available for rating field for each book to eliminate this loophole. Such a field could contain the date ARCs will be released, and would, ideally, be changeable by the author prior to that date in case ARCs are delayed.
An additional service to authors might allow for a field to help build pre-publicity buzz or let fans build pre-release support, a way to show that someone is looking forward to reading a book once it becomes available. This could be as simple as allowing a book to be added to a TBR pile, and then showing the number of times it appears in a TBR pile for any book that hasn’t yet passed the ARC release date.
I hope you will consider these suggestions.
Thank you and best regards,
Thanks for contacting us. Goodreads policy allows users to rate a book as soon as it is listed on the site. While most users use the star-ratings to review a book, some like to use the rating system to indicate interest or excitement in an upcoming title. We view this as a valid use of the site. Generally, when users rate a book that has not yet come out, other users take the rating with a grain of salt. If you feel this user is being abusive in other ways, please let us know and we’ll look into the matter further.
So, apparently this is a valid use of a RATING site. That is highly debatable. And the inability to report an erroneous or inappropriate (or in this case impossible) rating on Goodreads if there is no review attached means that both accidental and intentional pre-mature ratings, which skew the system, are unstoppable. ALSO, I take issue with the idea that anyone on the site knows to take a review/rating pre-release with a grain of salt, when large number of people do receive advanced copies ONCE THEY ARE AVAILABLE.
This is a good response, I think, for someone wanting to reply:
“Although you may feel that it is a valid use of the rating system to allow users to rate a book that is not even through the publishing process yet, this is flawed reasoning. If you want to allow people to express interest levels, then ADD an “Interest Level” rating to the site. This eliminates confusion about how to use the rating system properly.” – Cricket in the comments
Another good response can be found over at Adventures in Children’s Publishing:
“Dear Goodreads Staff,
That cannot be a valid use of ratings so long as the ratings factor into total ratings for the book, nor can it be a valid use when such ratings can actually deter someone from buying the book or reading it once an actual copy becomes available. Pre-release ratings can be highly prejudician to a book’s success, not to mention demoralizing for an author and the editorial team.
Furthermore, it has been brought to our attention that anyone can add a book and attribute it to an author, even if the book does not exist.
The Goodreads site performs such a service to readers and authors alike. It is truly a shame to allow an easily-fixed loophole to become a policy that makes no sense and damages the very industry you serve.
AND AND AND check out this fabulous post from Bookalicious Pam on the issue from a REVIEWER’S standpoint.
If nothing else, this issue and your responses are a reminder of the power of VOICE in our community.